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Stroke PatientAs the third leading cause of death in the United States, stroke affects all our lives and is an important topic for medical interpreters to understand. Stroke is also extremely complex, with numerous risk factors, warning signals, and types.

On Saturday, March 5, 2011, CultureSmart will host a medical interpreter training workshop with Judith Welch Clark, RN, BSN, the stroke service nurse at Boston Medical Center. Judith will discuss critical aspects of stroke – from risk factors to ongoing therapies after release – and look at the interpreter’s roles in caring for stroke patients.

The interview below introduces you to Judith and her tremendous clinical knowledge of stroke. We’ve bolded key terminology, linking some words to further information. To join us on Saturday, March 5, please visit this link to register. Read the rest of this entry »

Joint Commission Releases New Standards Related to Communication

by Cynthia E. Roat, MPH

In January 2010, The Joint Commission approved a number of revised hospital accreditation standards related to communication. These new standards are significant because they deal directly with language needs and interpreting. Read the rest of this entry »

Out and About: Medical Interpreter Training Programs

  • An open‐enrollment summer session of The Essential Piece training will begin on Saturday, June 6, 2009 at Newton‐Wellesley Hospital , 2014 Washington St., Newton, Mass. The program will run from 9 a.m.‐2 p.m. on Saturdays, June 6—August 8, 2009; no classes on July 4th. Currently, we have participants registered in Spanish, and Chinese. Two organizations have expressed interest in Somali. Please contact us, if your language is not listed as additional languages may be offered, based on demand. Registration fee is $695. Please visit for information or to register for our courses.

New Pushes on Standards and Certification for Interpreters

National standards and certification for healthcare interpreters are drawing closer to reality. The National Coalition on Healthcare Interpreter Certification (NCC), a group of 18 organizations, is collaboratively studying best practices and developing a single, national process for assessing, training, testing, and certifying medical interpreters.

As we’ve reported previously in The Interpreter, CultureSmart takes part in efforts of The National Council on Interpreting in Health Care (NCIHC), a Coalition member, to develop national standards for medical interpreter training. A grant that NCIHC received from The California Endowment is funding the Coalition’s work. Coalition committees are examining topics including certification for languages of lesser diffusion and continuing education for interpreters. Another effort toward national certification is also progressing: The International Medical Interpreters Association is working with Language Line University and PSI Services on a program that would use prerequisites, a written exam, and skills assessment for certification.

Sick around the world

Four in five Americans say the U.S. health care system needs fundamental change. Can the U.S. learn anything from the rest of the world about how to run a health care system, or are these nations so culturally different from us that their solutions would simply not be acceptable to Americans? FRONTLINE correspondent T.R. Reid examines first-hand the health care systems of other advanced capitalist democraciesóUK, Germany, Switzerland, Japan, and Taiwanóto see what tried and tested ideas might help us reform our broken health care system.

Submitted by Judy Kanter

Annotated Bibliography by Alice Chen, M.D.

Annotated Bibliography

New Orleans considers Boston model for preventive, primary care

A group of community leaders and health care professionals from New Orleans are traveling to Boston to learn about implementing clinics for primary and preventive care. The group says a network of neighborhood-based care clinics could provide a medical home for patients and also serve as community centers to help rebuild the city.  Times-Picayune (New Orleans), The (3/4)

Trained interpreters: a necessary expense

Scenario: Why should doctors provide interpreter services, and how can they afford to?

Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of ethnicity by any entity receiving federal funds, directs that physicians who receive Medicare and Medicaid funds must arrange interpretation for patients with little or no proficiency in English. How far must I go in implementing this unfunded mandate?


If you’ve ever been ill while vacationing in a land whose language you did not speak, you probably don’t need to be convinced of the compassion and fundamental humanity of having foreign language interpreters for medical encounters. In the U.S., having interpretation available has been federally mandated since 2000 for anyone who receives Medicare or Medicaid funds for patient care.

Atul Gawande's Writing

Whenever you ask me about books and articles that interpreters should read, I come up with a blank. This morning, though, there was an article in the “New York Times” about Atul Gawande, a surgeon whose essays I have been reading in “The New Yorker” for years. I love them because they look at medicine in a human and philosophical way. I find them very easy to read — because the language is clear and there is a story — but not simplistic, particularly because they look at imperfection.

1 in 6 hospital stays involve circulatory disease

Heart disease, stroke, deep vein thrombosis and other diseases involving the circulatory system accounted for nearly 7 million hospital stays in 2004, according to a new report from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. That represents about one in every six hospital stays, accounting for the greatest proportion of stays after pregnancy and childbirth. The most common circulatory diseases for which people were hospitalized were hardening of the arteries (1.2 million), heart failure (1.1 million), nonspecific chest pain (846,000), heart attack (695,000) and irregular heart beat (694,000).